Friday, 16 March 2018

Carbonara Pasta - fast, tasty Roman cuisine

Carbonara is a symbol of Rome’s cuisine and one of my favourite fast pasta dishes to make.
'Spaghetti alla carbonara' served with ground black pepper and topped with extra Guanciale

Ingredients: (serves 6)
50g of guanciale (cured pork cheek), 50 g of pecorino romano cheese, black pepper, 4 eggs, extra virgin olive oil.
Dried Pasta: 80-100g per serving

Method: Cut the guanciale into short sticks. Put a little olive oil in a pan and fry guanciale until crispy. Whisk the eggs in a bowl with pecorino cheese, black pepper and a pinch of salt. When pasta is cooked, drain the pasta, put it back in the hot pot and mix all the ingredients until the eggs acquire a creamy consistency, without scrambling. Serve immediately and with extra pepper on top.

Pasta shapes traditionally used for Carbonara are spaghetti or  rigatoni.

Chef Guido's Tips:
Tip 1: This sauce is very quick, and when ready needs to be stirred into the cooked 'aldente' spaghetti and served immediately.
Tip 2: If guanciale is not available you can use pancetta instead

If you like this recipe, please download Guido's FREE 5 minute Roman Pasta Recipe Booklet

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Immersed in Olives and Sabina Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The lives of my family and I are intertwined with the local Sabina extra virgin olive oil. We are not only surrounded by olive trees, we grow, harvest, take the olives to press to make our own extra virgin olive oil and make local cures using our own herbs mixed in olive oil...we also cure and eat our olives whole. Extra virgin olive oil is an essential ingredient in all my Italian cooking classes and Italian Culinary Holidays. In other words, we are immersed in olives and olive oil, inside and out!  Our local Sabina extra virgin olive oil often referred to as 'liquid gold' as it is recognised to have many healing properties. The olive itself is a symbol of peace and longevity, and it has often been used as a base for medicines because of its healing powers.
Visiting the 'L'Olivone', the Largest Olive Tree in Europe, is the first stop on your Rome Olive Tour
When in Rome.....come for a visit to the Sabine Hills with us to find out more about this amazing fruit, that has a long long history and is entwined with the local culture, here in the Roman countryside. I run Rome Olive Tours all year round. Rome Olive Tours with Convivio Rome

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Friday, 16 February 2018

How to cure olives, the Italian way

I've just finished the process of curing our own olives using the simplest local recipe from the Sabine Hills. It is so easy, that I wanted to share the local secrets on how to cure olives.

The olives (a 'carboncella' native Italian variety) collected from one of our trees back in December, were put inside a bowl, under layers of sea salt for 60 days.

Covered with large sea salt for 60 days

After rinsing off all the sea salt I left the olives to dry for 2 days on a cotton towel 

Then, I simply rinsed the olives and left them to dry on several cotton towels. I turned them every now and then to ensure they dried well.

I then chopped some orange peel and some garlic until I had a small handful of this mixture.

Finally, I put the cured olives in jars, mixing them with the orange peel and garlic and  finally covered them with our own olive oil. Fatto (done)!
Making sure all the olives are covered with extra virgin olive oil

PS: Nothing is ever wasted: for once all the olives are eaten, the olive oil from the jars can be re-used for dressing or cooking, with its wonderful flavour of orange and garlic.

Every Italian region have their own local recipes and methods on how to cure olives.

Let me know what way you cure olives as I would love to hear from you.

Convivio Rome conducts Rome Olive Tours, Italian Cooking Classes, 3 and 5 night Italian Culinary Vacations and Wine tours, all in the Sabine Hills, just north of Rome in Italy.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Amatriciana - Chef Guido's simple Roman Pasta Sauce

Amariciana, is named after Amatrice, a town that lies in the mountains of northern Lazio, famous for producing the finest guanciale (cured pork cheek). Amariciana is another one of my 'go to' Roman pasta sauce recipes, because it is simple, quick and full of flavour.

Ingredients (serves 6): 50g of guanciale (cured pork cheek), 50 g of pecorino romano, 1 can of peeled S.Marzano tomatoes (no added sugar), salt, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil.

Method: Cut the guanciale into short sticks. Put a little olive oil in a pan and fry guanciale until crispy. Put guanciale aside and cook tomatoes with a pinch of salt in the juice that’s left in the pan for 10 minutes. Add crispy guanciale at the end. Mix this sauce with cooked ‘aldente’ pasta and grated pecorino cheese. Serve with extra pecorino and plenty of black pepper.

(Pasta shapes traditionally used: bucatini, rigatoni, mezze maniche)
Dried Pasta: 80-100g per serving

Chef Guido is an eighth generation Roman, who runs Italian cooking classes  and Convivio Rome, with Sally, his Australian wife, in the beautiful Sabine Hills, just north of Rome. Italian Cooking Classes, Culinary Holidays and Olive Tours, plus Wine Tours.

Cooking Holidays and Day Tours  with Convivio Rome, are available all year round
For further information (cooking holidays, cooking classes and olive tours) (wine tours)

Friday, 2 February 2018

Cacio e Pepe

A true Roman cuisine classic, the Cacio e Pepe sauce recipe has been my family's favourite for generations.  During our Italian cooking classes, many of our cooking guests request for this additional easy-to-make recipe. It is very quick to prepare and uses pecorino romano cheese as a base. This cheese immediately acquires a creamy consistency as soon it's mixed with a little boiling water from the pasta pot.

Chef Guido's Tip:
A popular finishing touch is a little lemon zest on each plate, to lighten the flavour.

Cacio e pepe sauce
Ingredients: 50 g of grated pecorino romano, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest.

In a bowl: make a sauce by mixing a little water from the boiling pasta with pecorino and black pepper, quickly stirring for a few seconds. Mix in sauce with cooked ‘aldente’ pasta. Serve with a little lemon zest on top.
(Pasta shapes traditionally used: spaghetti, rigatoni, mezze maniche)

Culinary Vacations and Day Italian Cooking Classes, 
plus Olive Tours:
Half Day Rome Wine Tours:

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Rome Day Trip: the Sabine Hills

The Sabine Hills: a perfect day trip from Rome 
Only 35 minutes from Rome's outskirts and just north of the Capital, perfect for a day out in the countryside or a longer stay as part of a relaxing holiday, the Sabine Hills (Sabina) will reward its visitors with ancient medieval history, unspoilt landscape, renaissance palaces castles and monasteries, cultural events, art exhibitions, hiking trails and of course the 'Sabina DOP' extra virgin olive oil from its olive groves.
Toffia, 930AD is the oldest medieval village in Sabina (the Sabine Hills)
Dating back to 1200's, this medieval hilltop village is a hidden treasure
Unspoilt countryside
The way the Sabine Hills are still today very rural and unspoilt is almost miraculous, despite its vicinity with a big city like Rome. The landscape of Sabina is quintessentially Italian, with its rolling hills covered by olive groves and fruit orchards and dotted with medieval hilltop villages and castles. Because of the olive trees and other evergreen mediterranean plants, the Sabine hills are always very green, all year round. A visit to one of the many hilltop villages in the area, will reveal beautiful views over valleys and mountains in the far distance. 

Views over olive groves and hilltop villages in the Sabine Hills

The Sabine Hills offers magnificent views over unspoilt countryside
Sabina is an ancient land where civilisation started way before Rome and the local archaeological museum in Fara Sabina tells a story of walled cities, powerful kings and the development of fine art, pottery, jewellery and elaborate bronze manufacts from 2,600 years ago. Three of the seven kings of Rome, Tito Tazio, Numa Pompilio and Anco Marzio, were from here. 
During the middle ages, Sabina was part of the Holy Roman Empire and thanks to Charlemagne and his land donations, a local monastery called Farfa became a huge economic and military power in the area. The Farfa monastery owed its wealth to olive oil production for many centuries, as it was the largest landowner in Central Italy and it become an independent city state, its borders reaching well into modern Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche.
500 year old streets run between the ancient monastery and artisan shops in Farfa

National parks such as Monti Lucretili and vast conservation areas allow those passionate about hiking or mountain biking to explore the area using ancient  trails, walking through green valleys, woods and cultivated land. However, even just visiting some of the villages in Sabina will be an experience in itself. Medieval villages like Toffia, Castelnuovo di Farfa, Fara Sabina, Farfa, Bocchignano or Montopoli have impressive defensive walls, beautifully decorated renaissance palaces and ancient churches.
Toffia, one of the most beautiful hilltop villages in the Sabine Hills
A maze of picturesque alleyways, archways and little piazzas will welcome the visitor, almost resembling a movie set, without the mass tourism of other Italian regions. Impressive medieval castles can be seen in Rocca Sinibalda (Castello Cesarini, 1084 AD) and in Frasso Sabino (Castello Sforza, 955 AD).
Medieval streets and picturesque doorways in Castelnuovo di Farfa
 Great photo opportunities lie within the medieval streets
Today, Sabina is well known for its art and music festivals which are organised throughout the year. Toffia is famous for its "Festa del Centro Storico', an art, music and street theatre festival which lasts for 5 nights in mid-August and attracts more than 3,000 people every night. Toffia is also known for its very active theatre, run by 'Officina 33'. In Fara Sabina there is an international Jazz Festival in July and Casaprota hosts the interesting art and music 'Arterie festival'.
A local music trio, called 'Lamorivostri', keeps traditional music alive, with frequent concerts in the Sabina area and in Rome.
Sabina is well known for its music and art festivals 
Sabina is famous for its extra virgin olive oil, the very first in Italy to receive the DOP denomination. Olive oil has been produced here for millennia (there is an olive tree that's 2000 years old) and is known for being light and flavoursome at the same time. The area is also well known for pecorino cheese, olives, salami and of course guanciale (cured pork cheek), necessary for any amatriciana or carbonara sauce. Cooking Holidays are run in Toffia. One day cooking classes, as well as olive oil tours, and wine tours are also offered in the Sabine Hills area.
There are many Restaurants to choose from in Sabina. For an interesting combination of traditional dishes with a touch of creativity there is 'La Taverna del Corsari' in Montopoli.

How to get there from Rome
Fara Sabina is the best place to begin to explore the Sabine Hills. There is an excellent direct train departing every 15 minutes from many stations in Rome (Ostiense, Trastevere and Tiburtina, for example) to Fara Sabina Station. It takes 39 minutes to get from Rome Tiburtina to Fara Sabina. Here there are buses to many different villages in the Sabina area. By car, the direct way is via Rome-Florence (A1) motorway, Fiano Romano exit, then following signs to Rieti and Via Salaria, then to Fara Sabina.
If you join any of our Convivio Rome Culinary Holidays, or activities such as our cooking classes, olive tour and wine tours, we include a free pick up and return service to our local train station.

Cooking Classes:
Train information: can be found on site
Bus information: can be found on
© Guido Santi, 2018
Additional background information on Guido: Guido Santi is an eighth generation Roman who has a passion for cooking traditional Italian cuisine and for local, fresh, organic food and wine. As a follower of the Slow Food philosophy, he supports and promotes local farmers and the 'zero kilometres' philosophy. Guido runs "Convivio Rome" with his Australian wife Sally, offering cooking classes, 3 and 5 night culinary holidays, plus olive oil tours and wine tours in or nearby the medieval hilltop village of Toffia, Sabina (Italy), just north of Rome. You can follow Convivio Rome on Facebook and on Instagram
View from Guido's home and the Convivio Rome Cooking School

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

THE BEST OF ITALY: AMALFI COAST, CAPRI AND ROME, published in Escape travel magazine

Published in 'Escape*', an Australian wide travel magazine: 
Find out what Jane Armitstead,  an Australian freelance travel writer, wrote about her experience with Chef Guido and Convivio Rome. 
A guided tour of the medieval village of Farfa, is part of your Convivio Rome cooking day and culinary vacation

We hope Jane's article will inspire you to come along and visit us in this beautiful and unspoilt Italian countryside, just north of Rome.
Here is an extract from her article: 
"Among Italy’s most humble charms is how it’s ancient world bares such influence on the current lifestyle. This isn’t just seen through legends and landscapes but through the country’s next greatest obsession, food.
Even though the food culture is ever-changing, centuries-old recipes are still being used. There’s no better way to get to the heart of this tradition than to make it yourself.
An hour north by train from Rome is the little-known Sabine Hills, a place blissfully lost in time in the Italian countryside, dotted with medieval villages.
I’m in the family kitchen of husband and wife team, Sally and Guido, an Australian expat from Sydney and an eighth-generation Roman, who call this region home.
They’ve been letting people in on their secret hideout by hosting cooking classes for the past 16 years.
Out their kitchen window, I lose myself in the rolling mountains and the fields of endless olive groves....."
To read the full article,  called: "THE BEST OF ITALY: AMALFI COAST, CAPRI AND ROME " Just scroll down the article to find out about Jane's first visit to this area and her cooking-touring experience with us.
P.S. We welcome freelance journalists to join us and write about their Convivio Rome experience in hope that it will inspire others to join in the fun. We did not know that Jane Armitstead intended to write this article at all. This article was a wonderful surprise. Thank you, Jane.
*Escape  (as described by their website) "appears as a Sunday lift-out in News Corp newspapers across Australia and, along with our website, will help you plan your next dream holiday."